We only ate one meal out in Washington D.C. (the first time I had eaten in a restaurant since before the beginning of the pandemic!), and Ryan found a really cool local place for us to try…Ben’s Chili Bowl:
Before I get to the food, let’s start outdoors. In 2004, D.C. had a public art project, “PandaMania” and one of the remaining statues is located at Ben’s. Seeing it brought back fond memories of our STL250 cake hunting experience!
Ben’s is over 60 years old, and inside, it looks exactly like you would expect a restaurant of its age to…an old-school diner, which I loved!
Virginia Ali and her husband Ben started the restaurant together in 1958, the same year they got married. The big picture over the diner counter is like seeing a family photo in someone’s house!
I tried the Original Chili Half-Smoke (I wasn’t brave enough to try the spicy variety!). Normally, I can kind of take or leave hot dogs…usually they’re just ok. But the half-smoke at Ben’s was really good. There was a definite snap when I bit into it, and the flavor was fantastic. Chili, mustard, and onions are also the perfect hot dog topping…almost good as a Chicago-style dog!
The art on the building is so cool (and yes, President Obama has eaten there)…it really establishes the character of the place, and visually summarizes what Ben’s website says: “Our Black community is front and center in this story and Ben’s is a perfect case study – a study in our quest of freedom and its ongoing re-definition. Ben’s Chili Bowl is proudly Black-owned, and a historic landmark in Washington, DC’s culture.”
I love finding cool local places to visit when we travel!